2015 State of the City

Mayor Tom Tait 
2015 State of the City
February 3, 2015
2015 State of the City Video

Wow. Anaheim is on the move. There is no better city than Anaheim. Period.

Think about it. We live in America – in Southern California – in Orange County. What’s better than that?

We’re a world-class destination with Disneyland Resort celebrating its 60th anniversary,
 the largest Convention Center on the West Coast, and a Resort District delivering extraordinary experiences to over 20 million of visitors every year.

We’re a major league sports city with two awesome teams – the Anaheim Ducks who currently hold one of the best records in hockey and just three weeks ago retired the number 8 worn by the Finnish Flash, the great Teemu Selanne, and Angels Baseball, coming off the best regular season in all of baseball, led by American League MVP Mike Trout! 

We have a vibrant downtown exemplified by the extraordinary Anaheim Packing District, with great restaurants, craft breweries and live music. Hundreds of Anaheim residents and visitors alike are flocking every night to this new gathering place in the heart of downtown.

We have many exciting, distinct local neighborhoods, with a fantastic mix of ethnic diversity second to none in America, making us an incredibly interesting, authentic and hip place.

We have a thriving arts community with our own classical orchestra, the Orange County Symphony now in its 30th year; our own ballet company now giving Anaheim global exposure with its groundbreaking online video series attracting over 50 million online hits on YouTube; the Art Crawl featuring the work of hundreds of local artists; a passionate Arts Council; and the award-winning, cutting-edge Chance Theatre. 

We have (at long last) the ARTIC – which connects our visitors and ourselves to all of Anaheim and everywhere else. It’s beautiful building generating a lot of buzz. You should check it out, especially at night.

We have a well-run city that’s staffed with dedicated and creative people from all walks of life and led by our interim city manager, Paul Emery. And under the new direction of our police chief, Raul Quezada, crime is down 14% this past year.

Anaheim is a great place to live for young and old alike. In our audience today we have longtime Anaheim resident, Elmer Thill who is soon going to turn 101-years-old. Julie and I had the honor of attending Elmer and Genevieve’s 75th wedding anniversary about a year and a half ago. Elmer – we salute you!

And we have someone really special to my wife, Julie and me. He’s our one-year-old grandson, Hudson Eugene DeFrancis. Whitney, pick him up and show us your son!

Right there in front of us, we have a 100-year life span -- both Anaheimers thriving in our city. 

And by the way, I’m never ever going to forget to introduce my best friend and wonderful wife – Hudson’s grandmother – Julie.

And, we are the City of Kindness. We launched the Kindness initiative when I first took office, and it’s building momentum every year. Last year the elementary students at the Anaheim City School District committed to perform A Million Acts of Kindness. And they’re almost there. I’m told they’ll reach this milestone by early spring.

Just recently, 4,000 of our junior high and high school kids in the Anaheim Union High School District volunteered for a Serve-a-thon on Martin Luther King Day – helping those in need and cleaning up neighborhoods throughout the city.

Please help me thank our kids from all our school districts - the Anaheim City, Anaheim Union High School, Magnolia, Savanna, Centralia, Placentia-Yorba Linda, and Orange Unified – for lifting our city with their acts of kindness.

So with all we have to offer, it’s no surprise that Anaheim is the best place to do business in our state. The Freedom-centered regulatory-relief culture we’ve developed the last four years makes it easier and less costly to do business here.

Two years ago, I was pleased to have the Mayor’s Regulatory Relief Task Force recommend ways to streamline our processes and cut red tape. Since the Anaheim City Council approved these recommendations we have steadily increased the number of business licenses pulled each year. 

And the facts are in. In 2012 it was 4,000 new business licenses. In 2013, 4,200 new licenses were pulled. And last year, we saw a 13% increase with over 4,700 new business licenses.

A significant percentage of these new licenses are being issued to immigrants who have come to live in Anaheim from all over the world. 

These new residents continually impress me. They bring remarkable energy and are driven to succeed in their new homeland.

 Not only are thousands of new businesses opening up--they’re building stuff: commercial, industrial and residential-All of it! Our Building Division is swamped with permit applications! 

In 2012, we served 14,800 customers and in 2013 it increased to almost 16 thousand. And last year the Building Division served 18,199 customers – a 14% increase over last year. 

Nationally, the increase in permit volume is 4.5%. In Anaheim, our 14% increase is three times the national average. Three times. Our construction industry is very strong and you all know that means our Anaheim economy is growing. This is particularly evident in the Platinum Triangle, where currently there are 1,438 new residential units under construction, with thousands more in the queue. 

Year after year -- due to good policy, hard work and a clear commitment to being a freedom centered city -- businesses of all kinds are choosing Anaheim. 

I promise you - we’ll never stop. Because a growing business community pays off in big ways – more manufacturing, more high-tech, more jobs and more great places to EAT and DRINK!

Speaking of drinking, we’re now truly becoming THE Brew City of Southern California. By the close of this year, we’ll have 11 active craft breweries and more on the way. It helps when the planning staff approving the plans is cheering you on-like Scott Keohm, an associate planner and a craft beer aficionado. 

But that’s what Anaheim is all about – not just breweries, but all of our local small businesses -- our city staff is cheering you on as you fulfill your dreams. 

One of my jobs as Mayor is to run a financially disciplined city. I’m pleased to announce that for the fourth year in a row, our budget is balanced without drawing on reserves. Revenues continue to grow and we’re managing to keep our spending in line.

While keeping our budget in balance, we’ve been steadfast in accomplishing our planned initiatives for 2015 concentrating on strengthening public safety, neighborhoods, infrastructure and economic development. 

For example, the City was recently awarded a grant of nearly $500,000 to reexamine plans for the Beach Boulevard corridor. The goal is to revitalize Beach Boulevard by attracting quality development while ensuring it compliments the well-maintained surrounding neighborhoods. In partnership with the community, we have developed a new plan and issued RFPs last month.

Our message to developers and businesses is: There’s BIG opportunity in West Anaheim! Look what has happened in two short years downtown with the Packing District. This can happen in West Anaheim, too. The opportunity is there!

In addition, the city council has recently instituted the Quality Rental Housing Program and updated regulations for short-term rental units to address quality of life issues in our neighborhoods.

The City Council, City Manager and I are all committed to balancing our budget every year and not drawing on our reserves. This is critical to the continued health and well being of our city

I’m also committed to creating a city hall that is accountable to every resident and business. This means having a city government that is transparent and open. When I first took office, I challenged our city staff to come up with ideas that would bring visibility to everything we’re doing. And we’re making progress. 

Today we’re launching the Open Data Portal – a website providing city facts, city budgets, statistics and reports to all interested parties.

Just look at this: (see slide) 
 From crime mapping to mining new business permit applications, we’re releasing this data to the public - to app developers, community organizations, businesses and individuals. 

For example - if you’re one of the developers thinking about investing in Beach Boulevard, right now you can go and find the kind of businesses already operating there, what new businesses are pulling licenses, and all sorts of things about West Anaheim.

The Open Data Portal will create economic activity that we can’t even foresee today. And it makes us more responsive to the needs of all of our citizens. This is transparency and accountability at work for our city.

In addition, this past November our citizens voted for two foundational changes that make the city government more responsive to them.

The people approved a ballot initiative to both expand the city council and change how the council is elected. After a passionate debate, the citizens of Anaheim made a clear decision.

After the November 2016 election, we will have 6 city council members in addition to the mayor. And each district will elect their own councilmember to represent them. In last November’s election, nearly 70% of the electorate voted to to create districts. The new district maps will be completed by the end of this year, so we can all prepare for the 2016 elections. This change is all about bringing city hall closer to the people we serve.

As I begin my last four years as Mayor, I’m determined to leave Anaheim a much better, more vibrant and kinder city for all our residents and all of our businesses.

We do have some big challenges though. 

I know we’re all concerned about the Angels’ issue.

Like most of us, I’m a big fan of the Angels and I definitely do not want them to leave. However, my fiduciary duty is to the people of Anaheim - to be the steward of their largest real estate asset. I believe a deal can be found that’s good for the Angels and aligns with their plans, and that is fair and equitable to the people of Anaheim. Along with the city council, we will work to make this happen.

There are two national challenges we as a city don’t have the jurisdiction to solve. But we live with the consequences every day. And these issues need to be addressed. 

The first is pension reform. This is an issue in almost every larger city in America and Anaheim is certainly not immune. Here in Anaheim, we have a public pension hole of more than 500 million dollars. To put this in perspective, our annual general fund budget is about half that.

This matters for two significant reasons.

First, money that goes into higher pension contributions is money we don’t have to serve our citizens. It’s the crowding out effect – crowding out our ability to build parks, roads, public safety and create a thriving business environment.

Second, retirement benefits are guaranteed. If there’s not enough money then there’s ultimately only two ways to get it – raise taxes or cut services. This is the reality.

You may not know this – I didn’t before I became Mayor. But the state of California doesn’t allow local governments to change the accrual formulas – even on a going-forward basis. I’ve been actively advocating for these changes and will continue to do so in order to protect our employees’ retirement and make the pensions sustainable. In the meantime, we need to do everything we can do to establish the lowest possible pension rates that the state currently allows for new hires.

 The other national challenge I want to address is the broken immigration system. We don’t have the authority to fix it, but as I said, we have to live with the consequences.

As a city council, we unanimously voted for a resolution asking Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I can tell you cities all over America are doing the same.

Along with securing our borders and streamlining the visa process, there’s an important moral dimension at play here. It’s vital for any immigration legislation to enable people to come out of the shadows and fully pursue the American Dream for themselves and their families.

We may disagree on the wisdom of Presidential executive actions. But we can all agree the current system is broken, and a law to fix this system needs to be passed by the Congress and signed by the President. 

I am working right now to help make this happen with the Mayors of America. 

Which brings me to something I talked about two years ago from this podium. 

Regardless of issues surrounding services, income and education discrepancies, we are all Anaheim.

This isn’t an aspirational sentiment. It’s a simple fact. We live, work and grow together. We are Anaheim.

Our citizens and businesses have been working for years to strengthen the bond between us - with programs like Hi Neighbor, Coming Home Anaheim and great civic events like the annual Halloween Parade.

Did you know that the city program, Coming Home Anaheim, has placed 265 of our homeless citizens in good housing this past year? It’s estimated that the net societal dollar cost savings of moving these individuals from the street is over $2.2 million dollars. However, it’s not the savings in dollars that motivates our community to get involved; it’s the savings in human lives that inspires us.

This partnership of over 87 community-based non-profits and faith-based groups, along with our own city police force and parks staff, have made tremendous strides. But we’re far from finished. We will tackle this issue with determination, compassion and kindness.

One of the things I plan to work on specifically this year is housing our homeless veterans. Let’s set a goal that there will be no veterans living without shelter in our city by this time next year. Can I get your commitment to this goal right now?

In spite of the good things happening in our city, too many of our Anaheim youth are at risk. Too many are driven to drugs, gangs and petty crime. Too many are simply not reaching their potential. We must pull together as one to overcome it. 

In 2012, Disneyland Resort funded a youth services assessment study, conducted by the Olin Group. The report specifically explored services offered to our at-risk youth. Here’s what they found. We have a youth-centric city, with a higher percentage of youth than most other Orange County cities.

We have the 2nd highest teen pregnancy rates in Orange County. In the Anaheim City School District 85% of our kids are on a free or reduced lunch program. Thousands of our students are homeless or living in cars, motels or with other families sleeping on the floor.

Gangs are a growing threat to our children. We have to defend against them. Our police officers tell us children as young as 9 years of age are vulnerable to being recruited into gang membership.

These are the same kids who are delivering on their promise of A Million Acts of Kindness. They are wonderful children – but they are truly AT-RISK! 

There have been two responses to this study:

First, the City of Anaheim, as an organization, has responded by bringing programs directly to where the kids live.

Led by our Community Services department, we’ve expanded program capacity and facilities serving families and kids in the city – programs like “Mobile Recreation” and “Higher Ground” in Lincoln Park.

And they’ve focused on making programs for teens more relevant to their lives – teen pregnancy reduction programs, opening two new Support Anaheim Youth teen centers. We call this Project SAY. This program targets at-risk youth, teaching character and life skills.

We are also focused on reducing crime and making all neighborhoods safe. We’ve increased the number of sworn police officers, empowered our community policing teams, become the first in the County to purchase body cameras, and added more streetlights all over the city.

And most important, the police force is working daily to build trust between the police and the whole community. Outstanding programs like Cops for Kids, the Police Explorers and GRIP are breaking down the false barriers between the police and our kids. 
 At Sycamore Junior High, the Public Safety Career Pipeline was launched. Our police department, along with Anaheim Fire & Rescue provided weekly programming to 8th grade students – turning them on to careers in public safety and we plan to expand the program to other schools as well

And the Public Safety Board is up and running, strengthening confidence and accountability between the police and the community. 

Please help me thank our incredible and trusted police force. They have a tough job and they put their lives on the line for us everyday.

Everything I’ve said so far has been about the city’s response to our youth at risk. 

The second response has come from the business community, led by the Disneyland Resort, the Anaheim Ducks and Angels Baseball. These three giants of our community have stepped up to the challenge.

Last year, I told you about Accelerate Change Together for Anaheim – ACT Anaheim for short. A lot has happened since then. Take a look. 

(Play ACT video.)

I want to personally thank Michael Colglazier and the Disneyland Resort, Henry and Susan Samueli, Arte and Carole Moreno, and the Orange County Community Foundation, and their President Shelley Hoss for making all this possible. Thank you.

This is a simple, but revolutionary idea. Led by Disneyland Resort, the Ducks and the Angels, the business community has created a collective fund that will send resources to our non-profit programs and agencies that are successfully bringing opportunities to our children throughout the city.

Every business needs to be part of this. 

 Last October, something happened that shook our city. Ximena Meza was an exemplary 4th grader at Juliette Low Elementary. She loved playing soccer, learning karate and dancing Zumba in the park. She was known for being helpful to everyone she came across. On October 22 Ximena found herself in the cross fire of two rival gangs. This happy 9-year old girl was killed in front of her apartment while playing with her sister and friend, a tragic victim of gang violence. 

This happened in our city…our city of kindness. What happened here is not acceptable. Everyone who lives here, everyone who works here, has to do more. We need to get to the root causes of gang violence, and address those causes. We must face these issues more effectively than in the past, and all of us need to get involved in some way. 

What can or should we do? I believe our job is to show these at-risk kids that there are positive options for them. They can find fulfillment and happiness doing the right things. It’s within their reach.

We simply can’t sit on our hands. We can’t drive by these issues like we drive by these neighborhoods on the freeway.

If we do nothing different, then it’s logical to conclude that what happened to Ximena will happen to another child. Therefore, we must act. And act now. Kindness is an ACTION word. We cannot be kind and do nothing.

So, what should we do? We need the business community’s deep, long-lasting and deliberate involvement. We need your time, talent and treasure.

Let me tell you about something that happened a little more than a year ago. 200 Anaheim high school students came to city hall with a petition signed by 5000 students asking for help. They were asking for help in preparing for a 21st century career. They wanted help preparing to compete in a global economy. Specifically, they are asking for help from you.

We all know what the power of a mentor can do to help a young person. A simple act of kindness has the potential to turn a life around or give it direction. Knowing this, we initiated the Mayor’s Mentoring program, in partnership with the Anaheim Union High School District. 

Kaiser Permanente was among the first to respond. Just two weeks ago, I went to Kaiser’s Anaheim facility and saw “time and talent” in action. Take a look.

(Video plays)

Amazing. I left Kaiser that day optimistic and at the same time, with a deepened sense of urgency. There are so many more students who need to see the kind of careers they can have if they work hard. And they need to know we care about them and will help them. We need to reach them ALL.

I’ve heard from many businesses already: Toyota Financial Services, Bunzl Distributing, Disneyland Resort, Wells Fargo, and many others. 

Join us. The benefits are real – of course the individual students will benefit in immeasurable ways. But employees and businesses will benefit as well. There are numerous studies that show businesses actually improve their bottom line by getting involved in the community. In other words, doing good is good for business.

If mentoring doesn’t work for you, then there are other ways to help. If your time and talent aren’t available, then consider sharing a bit of your Treasure.

We’re asking you to contribute to ACT Anaheim today. I can do this with confidence because I know that ACT Anaheim is a solid investment. Your dollars will be thoughtfully managed and leveraged with those of other partners -- partners who share the same vision and goals for the future of Anaheim. 

We’ve started a list. If you’re not on it, you should be. Everyone doing business in Anaheim needs to be on this list, as a contributor to ACT Anaheim.

I’ve never been more serious in my life. We have a generation in need. And it’s going to take a generation of dedication from all of us to meet this need. 

Our task is to reach all of our youth. And ACT Anaheim is doing that – with a laser focus on the needs identified in the Youth Services Assessment.

We’ve looked deeply into our community. We understand what it needs to be successful. It’s time to bring business partners together not just from Anaheim but also from all over Orange County to meet these needs.

Time, Talent, Treasure. Just imagine what we’ll do together – Our Anaheim deliberately and effectively bringing real opportunities to every one of our children.

Imagine our great city free of gangs, drugs and fear. Imagine thousands of mentors in our schools, a police force trusted in every neighborhood, fully funded charities and community programs doing their great work.

Imagine a city where what happened to Ximena Never-ever happens again…where no Anaheim family ever again has to experience the loss of a child through gang violence.

Imagine a city where all of our children are nurtured spiritually, intellectually and physically. And imagine a city where every child in every neighborhood sees they can create lives that make them happy, hopeful and serve the greater good. 

Here’s a great example of what works.

Let me tell you about Nancy Sanchez. She grew up in Anaheim. She watched as many of her peers made bad choices because they thought that was all they could do. Some of them turned to gangs for a sense of belonging. And some of their lives were ruined before they grew up.

As a little girl, Nancy was exposed to music, specifically by RHYTHMO Mariachi, an Anaheim musical charity, and she found her authentic voice. Soon she was singing Latin jazz and then, modern jazz and pop music. Today, she’s a successful singer and songwriter with two albums to her credit. You can hear her singing in venues throughout Southern California. In fact, you might have heard her perform at the NAMM show two weekends ago. And you’re about to hear her now….ladies and gentlemen, please welcome one of our own, Nancy Sanchez.

Nancy to sing one song, “It’s a Wonderful World”, with her band.

Isn’t she something? Nancy is a perfect example of someone who found a mentor and a program that opened her up to see her potential.

We need to get to every young person in our city. We have to get to them now so they choose a life of fulfillment and success.

I can’t force you to join us. That’s not how kindness works. However, the need is real. And time is of the essence.

I can tell you that both the Mentoring Program and ACT Anaheim are up and running - and they both work.

So here’s the big ask: Please get involved! 

Take the card at your table, fill it out and we will come to you. Or go back to your offices and talk to your teams and get back to us. 

I believe you will all want to get involved. I believe you want to pull together as One Anaheim and change the lives of an entire generation of our children. Well, now is the time.

This can be your legacy-our legacy- to the youth of Anaheim. I know when you’re old and at the end of your life, you’ll look back with pride at what was accomplished in this city-our city.

 I’m so proud of our city. I’m so excited to see what we can do together. We are all Anaheim. God bless you and God bless our great city. Thank you.

Phillip Palmer returns to the stage and announces $70,000 in net proceeds was raised from today’s State of the City event to support ACT Anaheim.